Monday, February 27, 2012

The Two of Us


Several years ago, a bicycle repair guy asked the Husband and me, "Do you do everything together?"

"Almost," one of us, and possibly both, said.

"Both your bikes had a broken spoke in the rear wheel at the same spot," said the bicycle repair guy, shaking his head in what seemed like disbelief that that was possible.

The husband and I have been pretty much with each other 24/7 for the past 13 years.

It works.

We've started walking for exercise again. We each follow our own pace,
which means the husband is usually hundreds of feet ahead of me. Every so often
he circles back to see how I'm doing, especially when I've lagged behind
because I've stopped to take photos.

© 2012 Su-sieee! Mac. All rights reserved. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

In Passing

Last Thursday, I shared with you, dear readers, the beginning of my 30 years as a writer and editor. That was the upside of 30 years ago. The downside was the death of the Daddy, two weeks after I started my new job.

The last time I saw him was the weekend before I started work. The parents were both happy—the Daddy, in particular—that I finally got a job. One, especially, that I was excited about.

On the last evening of my visit, I was rummaging through my old bedroom closet for some stuff. I don't know how long the Daddy had stood at the bedroom door  watching me before I realized he was there.

"Do you want something?" I asked.

He smiled. "No," he said.

I returned to my quest. He stood there for a few more seconds, then left. It was such a odd thing for him to do.

When I was a small kid, every now and then I would wake to find the Daddy and the Mama looking at me. I always pretended I was asleep. "She's okay," the Daddy used to say, then eventually they would leave my bedside.

After the Daddy died, I got the feeling that was what the Daddy was thinking when he stood just watching me. He was satisfied that he could leave me now. I think he knew that was the last time we would see each other.

Thirty years later. . . how I miss him.

The Mama and The Daddy, 1976

Monday, February 20, 2012

Life is Good


On Saturday, the Husband, the Mama, and I took the plunge and adopted Missy Molly by Golly. She's about one-and-a-half years old, more or less. A mix of tortoiseshell and tabby, says the Husband. He told me why, but it went right through the ears. She definitely has a coat of many colors. That's good luck, according to the Mama. For the cat or for us, I don't know.

Molly had lived in a foster home most of her life, so she already knows all the tricks about using the litter box. Yaay! She also has her shots and is spayed, defleaed, microchipped, and whatever else cats need to have done to them today. The foster mother told us that Molly is quite independent. That she prefers to hang around people than with cats and dogs, and that she can do well without other four-legged companions. All reasons for her to come home with us.

Today is the third day of being with the highness, the Cat. She already greets each of us when she sees us, and is slowly becoming comfortable roaming her new home. She's such a sweetie that Missy Molly by Golly.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thirty Years Ago. . .

Some of the first books I wrote and edited at Janus Book Publishers.
Thirty years ago, I began my first day at work in the publishing industry. It was actually my second day of employment, but the first day was a holiday. I still think that was (and is) definitely a great way to start a new job—and a new career.

I had not planned to enter the publishing world. Back then, my goal was to get at least five years of teaching under my belt so I could eventually become a high school counselor or a curriculum developer in a school district. So, what happened? Simple. By the time I earned my teaching credential in social science, there were few teaching jobs. I was in another bout of unemployment when I saw the newspaper ad for an assistant editor position at a small educational publishing house. I figured it was a long chance, but heck, what did I have to lose.

Throughout the whole job selection process, I had a good feeling about the job. I had to do a writing sample, and as I worked on it, I knew that this was the type of work I wanted to do. Creating textbook materials was the best way for me to contribute to education. Alas, I did not get the job. Still, I felt like one day I would work for the company. 

Ring. Ring.  You got it. About a month later, another position became available, and I was offered that position.  Every day, for four years, I commuted from San Francisco to Hayward, about 45 minutes away, to edit and write student materials at a third grade readability for teenagers with learning, reading, and language disabilities. The interactive workbooks were used as supplementary materials by teachers to teach core curriculum subjects. Although the primary audience was teenagers, the books were also being used in regular elementary classrooms and adult basic education programs.

My time at Janus Publishing was essentially an apprenticeship. I was fortunate to work under the editorial direction of  Winifred Ho Roderman, who had been a special ed teacher and so was quite committed about developing materials that taught concepts in small, manageable, and progressive, chunks of learning. She was ruthless with her purple pencil, but so worth it. She was a visionary and fair-minded. What I especially liked about Winifred's work style was her dedication for explaining to an author or an editor why a change needed to be made to improve the manuscript. Winifred demanded excellence and I did my best to give it to her.

Let me tell you, I learned quite a lot in those four years at Janus. Not just about editing and writing professionally, and how the publishing cycle works from developing book content outlines to producing books, but also about science, mathematics, history, English, government,  home economics, and other subjects. I was actually learning basic concepts about the solar system, simple machines, human body, and earth science for the first time. I had science in grammar school and took most of the science classes in high school, but for the life of me, I do not recall learning things such as we always see the same side of the moon as it revolves around the earth, or that the inclined plane is a simple machine and a screw is an inclined plane. It blows my mind away again as I tell you those basic concepts.

I was perfect for writing the Janus workbooks. I was like the audience, a bit slow in grasping abstract concepts. I wrote and edited words, sentences, and paragraphs so I sure as darn tooting understood what was what.  It took a lot of  hard work to state tough concepts clearly and simply. But, then, that's the way everything is, isn't it?

Yep. One of the best things that ever happened for me was Winifred willing to take a chance on me—an inexperienced teacher, editor, and writer—and hire me, all based on what she perceived I could do through my writing sample.  Thank you, Winifred!

So, here I am 30 years later. Writing and editing haven't gotten any easier. But, then, why should they?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Any Day Can Be Christmas


Yesterday was like Christmas.

After eight-and-a-half years, I finally opened some boxes marked KITCHEN that belong to the Husband and me. There was stuff I forgot we had. When we moved in with the Mama, most of our belongings stayed in storage. Last month, we consolidated two lockers into one and I decided to bring home some of the KITCHEN boxes. Until late yesterday afternoon, they'd been sitting in the garage. They would probably still be there if we didn't move boxes around to try to find a mouse carcass. Shudder.

We did not find any mouse remains, but we did discover that something ate through the cat carrier—which we had bought to eventually take Mr. L. Gatto Cat to the veterinarian (and it's a good thing we didn't)—to get at the bag of cat litter that we'd stored in the carrier. Was the mouse disappointed when he finally reached the sand?

"Do mice hibernate?" the Husband asked.

"I don't know," I replied, watching him poke a stick in the bag.  Shudder.

Back to happy thoughts. Christmas in February.

By the time I was ready to go through the boxes in the kitchen, the Mama had waken from her nap. The Mama loves opening presents as well as seeing what comes out of unopened boxes and bags that belong to others. She got as excited  as I did. The Husband would say differently because she didn't ooh! and ahhh! like me.

"My pyrex pie pans!" (which were originally the Mama's). The Mama hovered over the box.

"Those are nice," said the Mama, glancing at each different size covered glass jar that I set on the table. I could see she was already thinking what to put in them.

"Oh, that's pretty," she said, when I set down a crystal candy jar. Maybe I will make chocolate cherry almond truffles to put in it for Valentine's Day.

Then out came a large bag full of our spoons, knives, forks, and chop sticks. The Mama sat down and began sorting them into categories of her own making. She instantly recognized the design of the ones that she had given me and the first husband over 25 years ago. I think she was pleased that I had kept them.

As the Mama made her piles, I wondered if any of the spoons would be perfect to use for playing music. Other than that I had no idea what to do with all that silverware. Was I ready to get rid of them all? Then the Mama said, "We can use these."

"Huh?"

The Mama decreed that we'll be using the Husband's and my silverware from now on. No discussion. No asking me for permission. I don't even think she thought that I may not want to use them. Of course, I didn't even think about that fact until just now. I was surprised  that she wanted to use our stuff. Not just make room for them in her silverware drawer, but to actually get rid of some of hers. Or, at least put hers in storage.

I definitely appreciate it. It'll be nice, satisfying, and delightful to use our silverware and some of our other kitchen stuff again. I  may get the rest of the KITCHEN boxes out of storage sooner rather than later. Then the Mama and I will have another day of Christmas. Wait till she sees the blue willow plates. I just know she'll want to eat off of them.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Pink Sky to End the Year

It's not that I don't have something in mind to write about. I do. Lots. But, work words must be written first. So, for today, I give you photos of a pink sky on the last evening of 2011.  Until Monday, dear readers.

The Husband and I went for a walk around the neighborhood. As we wandered we wondered
if we would come across Mr. L. Gatto Cat in one of his favorite hang outs. We were quite
surprised to see him hanging out on the fence when we got home. (This was two nights before
he left our lives forever.)


Such an amazing sky, don't you think? Hollister, California, that's where we live.
Nope. I'm not talking about that silly store.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Clip. Clip. Clip.

It happens.

A loved one gets too old to cut her (or his) toenails. That same elderly loved one who can still drag a nine-foot ladder across the backyard and prune a lemon tree, when no one is looking.

In my case, that is the Mama.

I could take the Mama down to a nail salon. But, the idea of a stranger touching one's toesies is creepy. And, you never know if the stranger-who-clips-toenails-for-money really changes her gloves after each customer. That protection is more for the stranger-who-clips-toenails-for-money than for the customers. Forget about trying to convince me otherwise. Then, there is the matter of the strong smell of chemicals. I've walked passed open doors of nail salons and been hit with a big wham of oppressive odors.  The stranger-who-clips-toenails-for-money also wears a face mask, which makes me wonder why customers don't wear them either. Heaven knows what breathing in the toxins for even one minute does to your health.

Of course, there is the Mama's reason. She'd rather buy a 50-pound bag of wild birdseed. I agree. More value for the money.

So, yes, I cut the Mama's toenails.

The first time was last summer. I happened to come across her sitting on the patio, with her foot up on a stool. Her various nail clipping tools spread out beside her. She was muttering frustrated curses at her toes.

I offered to cut her toenails.  At first, she resisted.

"It's no problem," I said, hovering over her.

"It's this big toe. The cuu-coo hurts at night," she said. Cuu-coo (I don't know how it's spelled) is the Ilocano word for toenail—and fingernail, for that matter. It's pronounced like cuckoo in cuckoo bird.

"I can do it," the Mama said, quite plaintively.

At that point, I could've left her alone and gone back upstairs to work. But,  my concentration would be interrupted by wondering how she was doing. The Mama has difficulty asking for help. My difficulty is gauging whether to leave her alone or ignore her and start pitching in. That afternoon, I pulled a chair in front of her and picked up a nail clipper.

"Just the big cuu-coo," she said, with what sounded like relief in her voice. Of course, I ignored her. I trimmed them all.

"I can cut your toenails for you," the Mama said, as I clipped slowly away at a particular thick cuu-coo.

"That's okay," I said. Clip. Clip. Clip.

"I used to cut your father's cuu-coo all the time."

The Daddy had a cataract in one eye and during his last several years, he no longer drove after dusk.  It should not have surprised me that the Mama trimmed his nails. But, it did. I wonder if the Daddy came up to her one day with the nail clippers and asked her. Or, like me, she happened upon him being frustrated at not seeing the fine details.

I also wonder if she chitchats about things, especially stuff that happened in the Philippines long ago, while she clipped the Daddy's cuuu-coo just as she chatters away while I clip hers today. The Mama isn't much of a talker, so her yakkity-yakking was quite surprising. But, then, I recall being 18 years old and one of my godfather's and his niece had just left after a long visit. The mama said to me, quite surprised, "I did not know you could talk a lot."

Every six weeks, more or less, the Mama asks me to trim her toenails. I can count on her saying, "Would you like me to do your cuu-coo? I used to cut your father's cuu-coo all the time." As I clip away, I can also be sure of her telling me stories about stuff that happened to her in the Philippines long ago.

I enjoy clipping the Mama's toenails. I think she does, too.

© 2012 Su-sieee! Mac. All rights reserved. 


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Working Out the Body Again

A strange thing happened on Monday afternoon.

For a second day in a row, the Husband and I decided to go outside and get our bodies moving and make some sweat happen. But, that's not the strange thing that happened.

The day before we pedaled our bicycles up and down. My choice. Monday was his choice. Walking.

Sigh.

I realized, again, on Monday that I don't really like walking long distances unless it's on a beach, in a park or wilderness, or on city streets lined with shop windows. I like to be distracted as I walk.

Plod. plod. plod. The Husband is much taller than me, which means he has a long stride to my short plod. We both walk at our own pace. So, the husband is almost always ahead of me, but circles back when he gets to a corner. He gets more walking in that way, and I get a chance to be alone to  think or not to think about things.

Okay, now this is when the strange thing happened. As I got to the second block, a wonder took hold of me. I wonder if I can still jog.

I used to jog way back when I was young single gal living in San Francisco. Regularly in Golden Gate Park I did. As I jogged, I imagined I was an Indian messenger running from village to village. I enjoyed jogging so much I even did the occasional fun run such as the Bay to Breakers, the one through the San Francisco Zoo, and the one around Angel Island....Excuse me, while I bask in the memory of being much younger for a moment.

Okay, back to  Monday afternoon. Could I still move my old, fat body in a jogging motion?  I took a step into a jog. My body lumbered forward. I caught up with the Husband and stopped a few steps away. He was surprised, as was I. "Did you feel as awkward as you looked?" the Husband asked. 

It most definitely felt awkward. It also felt quite freeing. So, I continued to jog a few yards every so often as we walked. When we got home, I felt like I reclaimed something about myself.

Yesterday, we went walking again. I wondered if I could do it again. Jog, that is.

Yep.

And, guess what? The Husband stepped into a jog now and then, too.

© 2012 Su-sieee! Mac. All rights reserved.